Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A pat on the back

On Monday, I had to make a presentation to the CSO regarding my chief project. In the past, my group's relations with his department have been cold to adversarial since my former boss was a power monger and refused to partner with Security when it came to IT Security issues. The meeting was very congenial and I walked out of it with more than what I had expected to (basically, I got what I wanted without ever having to ask for it ... nothing better in the world).

This morning, my acting boss (former boss of my former boss) stopped by to give me some serious stroking. Apparently the CSO was very impressed with me and wanted to know more about me. (He REALLY disliked my former boss, BTW.)

So, I was very Jonesed about the entire thing. I am building bridges with another group, that used to dislike us. I've given them access to data on a number of incidents, where they previously have not had any access. And, I feed them info that would further both of our agendas. So, my acting lead is VERY happy with me right now.

We've been having a hard time finding the right candidate to fill our team lead position. Several times in the last year, management has asked me if I was interested in the role (prior to our team lead actually leaving ...). I said 'no'. One of my team mates has applied for the role, but I know that they do not totally respect her abilities. I keep wondering if they're going to ask me again. I also wonder, if they do, what I will say...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Movie review: Charlie Bartlett

Spoiler alert!

Most of us remember high school as that horrible time in our lives when we were unsure of ourselves and our place in the world. We all wanted to be liked by our peers, mostly because we weren't sure if we liked ourselves. Enter Charlie Bartlett. The movie opens with Charlie being expelled from the latest in a string of private schools. Typically, his expulsions have been related to schemes he undertook to increase his popularity. When his mother points out to Charlie that there are more important aspects to high school than being popular, Charlie asks for examples. After a moment's hesitation, she admits that she cannot think of any. Charlie's mother then suggests that he attend the public school.

Charlie is a very bright young man from a wealthy family. His mother is a bit maladjusted herself, and so she keeps a psychiatrist on retainer to minister to her and Charlie's needs. After being beaten up for his preppie ways, Charlie leverages his psychiatric experience into a new scheme. He will offer advice and psychoactive prescription drugs to his fellow students, in partnership with his erstwhile abuser (cum drug dealer). The scheme is hugely successful. Charlie is a very good listener and offers pretty good advice.

After one of his clients tries to kill himself with his 'prescription', Charlie needs to stop dispensing drugs. When he informs the students that he won't be prescribing drugs any more, he says he will still offer free counseling. His business partner is angry with him, and guesses that their run is over. Amazingly, the next day, Charlie has as many clients as he did when he was prescribing and selling drugs.

By the end of the movie, Charlie admits to everyone that he is no more together than they are. However, it does seem that he has a knack for hearing what people are really saying and offering sound advice. He finds that he enjoys the role so well, that he eventually seeks a summer internship at a psychiatric hospital. Though the interviewer wonders about his checkered past, he is willing to interview a very enthusiastic Charlie, but comments that they need to get to it because the interviewer has a tough day ahead. Charlie smiles and asks if he would like to talk about that.

It would have been great if Charlie Bartlett had gone to my high school!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Things I am happy about

Considering the week I had (didn't get the hospital job, bad back issues, another crappy snow day, my weight creeping up on me, and the continuing fun of parenting a teenager), I decided to take a page from ToDoList and blog about things that I am happy about.

  1. I have a patient and loving husband
  2. I live with two great cats
  3. Just seventeen more months until I'm vested in my organization's retirement plan
  4. Just fifteen months left until I'm plastic-debt-free
  5. I have a job that I find challenging where I am usually appreciated for my contributions, and where the benefits are pretty darn good
  6. I have an awesome collection of music
  7. I have an great collection of books
  8. I have a great memory for trivia
  9. I love movies
  10. My friendship with BriWei
  11. My other blog-friends (Barbie2Be & Summer, especially)
  12. Keeping in touch with friends from the mid-Atlantic (ChangeJunkie, Cobwebs, and D & S)
  13. Pleasant memories of people who I've parted ways with
  14. No gray hair yet (in my 46th year on Earth)
  15. Listening to audio books
  16. That I enjoy going to the gym every day during the work week. It's not just about burning calories. I also crave the mental change of pace (plus, I listen to audio programs while I'm working out).
  17. My relationship with my half-brother
  18. My relationship with my step-brother and step-father
  19. My relationship with my sister-in-law, K.
  20. I finished my taxes quickly, and I am getting a well-deserved significant refund.
  21. We just started an eight day break from our son (and he from us), by putting him on a plane to TX to visit his grandparents

Friday, February 22, 2008

I respect him, but make him back off

Ralph Nader is again thinking about taking an independent run at the Presidency this year.

When I was in college, I totally admired what Nader stood for and espoused. However, I am one of 'those Democrats' who think his run for the Presidency in 2000 gave George W. Bush the win.

While neither Clinton or Obama is perfect, a Nader candidacy will take votes from which ever one of them garners the Democratic nomination. That, and the fact that McCain has often attracted centrist Democrats, could hand the election to McCain.

And, let's be real here. Does he really think he has a chance of actually winning? What would be the point, other than stealing votes from the Democratic nominee? Does he really hate the Democrats that much that he'd rather see a Republican win?

Even if the guy doesn't like the two main parties, he should admit that his politics are in line with many leftist Democrats. If he actually wanted a shot at the Presidency he should have run as a Democrat in the primaries. Heck, he and Kucinich have a lot in common.

So, Ralph, are you listening? STEP OFF!

A better implementation of my consolation prize

Taking Briwei's comments to heart, I started shopping for alternative ways to copy my vinyl music and cassette programs to CDs. After a bit of research, I decided to look into straight up CD recording audio components that you add to your existing stereo system. After all, I already have a turntable; I just rarely make the effort to utilize it.

My research lead me to the TEAC CD-RW880. For the most part, the reviewers liked it with only two minor (in my mind) quibbles. First, if you want track breaks on the CD, don't trust the automatic track break feature of the recorder. Silence within a track can be interpreted as a track break. Second, the set up instructions may be a bit daunting. Since that sentiment has applied to virtually every electronic component we have ever purchased, I'm not overly put off by that consensus.

The added bonus in going with the Teac component, is that it costs about $140 less than the Crossley. Hooray!

Now, I just have to wait for my tax refund to come in.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The news is in

Looks like I can start shopping for my consolation prize. I just got the email telling me that the hospital went with another candidate. I'll get over it, but I am pretty bummed right now.

C'est la vie. I still plan to make the best of the boat that I am in currently, including going after my CISSP.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The deed is done

It wasn't as painful as in years past, but I did it. I filed my income tax returns, both the Federal and the Massachusetts (and, I live in New Hampshire).

Every year, I give over my Presidents' Day holiday to the dreaded preparation of our taxes. I usually don't finish that day, and this year was no different. However, I finished this evening.

We're getting enough back that I can pay for my next class and can treat myself to my audio treat (but, per BriWei, I will be doing significant research before committing to a $400 expense).

I can now rest easy.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Potential consolation prize

Since it has been over two weeks since I interviewed for the job at the hospital, without a word, I think assuming the worse is appropriate. I'm trying to be somewhat stoic about it. Maybe I wasn't really ready for that job. There are tiny signs of slow change with my current job. Since my boss left, a lot of people are coming to me directly and seem to value my opinion. My former boss's boss, Ron, listens to me more than anyone else on my team for one thing. And, I am the only one that has the balls to tease him. (He is a very dry sort, but I can usually get a chuckle out of him without too much effort.) So, I'm prepared to slog on in my current role.

As a side benefit, the hospital job would have meant a significant pay cut. As a back-pocket-consolation, I promised myself a $400 gadget if I didn't get the job. I will wait until I get the official 'kiss off' notice from them, but I am now starting to look forward to my consolation prize: a piece of stereo equipment that allows you to copy vinyl albums and cassette tapes to CDs. It is a bit over priced, but I can make great use of it. I still have about 100 vinyl albums, which I never play due to inconvenience. Plus, I have several dozen actual books-on-tape that are not available as CDs. Since I no longer have a tape player in my car, the chances of me actually listening to those tapes is pretty slim. Enter the Crosley Songwriter CR248PA Turntable/CD Recorder.

Highly self-indulgent? You bet!

Presidents' Day is traditionally the day that I do our income taxes. We typically get at least $1000 back. If that's the case again this year, I know how I'll be paying for this little gift to myself. My husband is on board with the splurge. It's nice when one's spouse is tolerant of one's financial whims. Of course, I guess he can't say too much about me spending $400 on audio equipment. That's less than what he typically invests in a Japanese sword, which needs work. He buys them for $300-$700 when they are in less-than-optimum shape. He then takes great pleasure in restoring them. Once every year or two, he sells ones that he has refinished. He usually gets the money he puts into them back, and maybe $100 more. For him, it's not about making money, it's the enjoyment of the restoration process.

Me? I love my music and audio programs - particularly during my hour-long drive to work each day. So, I guess the Crosley is a fair investment when you take that into consideration.

Remember: Man is not a rational animal. Man is a rationalizing animal.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I am not a prude

My son got in trouble with us this evening. (Shocking, a fourteen year old who ticks off his parents!)

K must ask for Internet access since he is really good at pissing away hours when he should be doing other things (like homework or sleeping). This evening, he needed to do some research for a Civics assignment. We caught him "taking a break" playing an online game. So, I re-enabled the proxy server on my linux box and configured his browser to point to the proxy server. I then configured the proxy to block several game sites and his favorite instant messaging sites.

After he went to bed, I decided to check the logs to see if he wasted any more research time with baloney. Shockingly, he did. He ended up going to a porn/game site. Wow! The best of both worlds! Naked women and games.

Frankly, I don't care if he wants to look at naked women. I just want him to get his school work done. However, I also do not want him infecting his computer with malware. Most porn sites give your computer the gift that keeps on giving.

So, after I made my discovery, I woke the kid up. I offered to buy him all the porn magazines his hormones could possibly want. I strongly encouraged him to not surf porn sites on the Internet. I then asked him if he remembered what I do for a living. He sleepily said "computer stuff". I chuckled and responded, "Yeah, kind of." I then proceeded to point out to him that I spend a good portion of my working day dealing with the fallout on our network and computing systems from morons who thought that visiting one or two porn sites was a harmless little lunch time activity. I then re-offered to purchase him some skin magazines. He said that it wasn't necessary. I think it is. Really. I would much rather give him all sorts of naked girls to look at, so long as it doesn't make his computer dysfunctional.

Aren't I a liberal-minded mom?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Fascist music services

For many years, I subscribed to Musicmatch Jukebox. Sometimes, I would buy songs through them. Last year, I finally ditched them in favor of Yahoo Jukebox. Yahoo's unlimited music service had the option of downloading "licensed" songs to my mp3 player. As long as I was a subscriber to the service, I could download anything in their catalog to my portable player.

Sometimes, I liked a song enough that I wanted to add it my personal ('permanent') collection. These are songs that I wanted to be able to burn to CD, and have access to beyond my relationship with Yahoo (or MusicMatch). Apparently, I was only half right in my assumptions. Songs purchased from either service have been in WMA format and subject to DRM licensing. This means that anytime that I want to do anything with these songs on my computer (like load them to a portable player or burn them to CD), that the DRM will attempt to contact the 'mother ship' to make sure that I have the rights to do so.

Um ... annoying.

The only way around this is the following scheme that I've concocted. First, once you have a reached a reasonable threshold of purchases (10-25, depending on length of the tracks), burn your most recent purchases to CD for 'archival' purposes. Once the songs are playable on any CD player, put the CD back in your computer and MP3 rip the songs (labeling the tracks yourself, since the CD will not be in any CD database on the Internet, in theory). Then, you have an MP3 digital version of the song you purchased, and can work with it without having to deal with the DRM crud.

Mind you, I am not condoning pirating. I just want to be able to burn mix CD's and transfer music to my portable device without constant third-degree interrogation by the DRM police.

Waiting for the world to turn

The hiring manager at the hospital gave me hope that I might hear about the position by the end of last week. That didn't happen. The HR representative stated that it would probably be the end of this coming week. After not hearing anything, I really should have known that HR is usually closer to reality on these types of things.

I spent a lot of time this past week going back and forth about how much I wanted this new job to work out, and how I could make my current job into a better situation by trying to be an agent of change. My mentor really wants me to stay because she thinks I really can be an agent of change. I have a feeling that it's going to be an extremely tough up hill battle. There's a mantra that I have been preaching for over a year to any and all who will listen:

Policy, process, and accountability

In a large organization, such controls are necessary to instill order onto chaos, and to keep disparate groups on the same page. These words are alien to my current environment. It will take some doing to convert the masses to this way of thinking. If I end up staying, I need to find the energy to become an evangelist of these ideas. However, I really don't want to stay.

What is it about a frustrating work situation that makes one fantasize about their resignation. The primary element in my fantasy involves evocation of the magic three words above, and how I need to work in an environment that knows what the words mean and values their impact on the business. Plus, of course, a good measure of "I told you so." (as in: I told you not to make me the single point of failure on a number of critical system maintenance requirements).

Why do so many of us envision leaving jobs with the very adult and professional phrase of "Ninny, ninny, boo boo," on our lips?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Virtuous employee?

OK. The snow last night wasn't as bad as they were predicting. We had a little over an inch of crunchy heavy snow. We might get some more today, but it doesn't sound horrendous.

I got up at my usual 5 a.m. and, instead of getting on the exercise bike, I bundled up and went out to clean off my car (still a bit of a workout). I started the car up to thaw off its snow crust (the stuff that wouldn't easily come off with my large heavy squeegy-thing). Then, I went back in the house to shower and dress. I left the house at 6:10. The roads weren't that bad but traffic was excrutiatingly slow just the same. But, since I left early, I was able to make up some of that time on my normal backroad route. I arrived at work at 7:10.

Off to be a super productive employee! :D

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

My answer to repetitive winter weather

Winter weather is outdoing itself in New England, and I have grown beyond weary with its machinations. Supposedly, we're about to get hit with another four to six inches of snow over night. While I have several meetings scheduled for tomorrow, I refuse to fight snow and traffic to go into the office. The commute normally takes me an hour. In bad, and I mean ghastly, weather it could take me nearly twice as long. My back issues make it difficult to handle a car ride of much more than an hour. So, if things look gnarly tomorrow morning, I plan to opt out of my work day.

What shall I do on my day off, assuming that I have one tomorrow?

I am seven months behind in reconciling my checking account, so maybe that should take priority? After that, I'd like to make a Valentine card for my husband. Then, well, then I have a boatload of TiVo programs queued up that are simply calling to me.

Yes, yes. I KNOW that the unreconciled checking account is a bit irresponsible. I typically keep a float of a few hundred dollars in my account to cover any overlooked expenses when I update Quicken at the end of each week (which I am quite religious about, thank you). So, it's probably not all THAT bad. Still, it would be good to be more certain of the status of my checking account, rather than relying on a general state of suspected comfort.

Another one of my personal goals has to do with music. I am organizing an 'oldies' party at my church. And, since I have a pretty obscene music collection, I've been enjoying accumulating a playlist for the evening that encompasses hits from the fifties through the eighties. Pulling the music together will probably more fun for me than the actual party, which a number of people are already really stoked for (there will be costume and trivia contests, involving gift certificates to Newbury Comics).

So, I'm trying to look on the 'bright side' of the potential for bad weather tomorrow. Heck, I'm almost rooting for it to suck in the morning.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Playing "dress up"

In hopeful anticipation of getting the position I interviewed for at the hospital, I went clothes shopping yesterday. Most women would get all a-tingle at the prospect. While I tried to make the most of it, I can't say that I reveled in the endeavor.

First off, the position I interviewed for involves a lot of politics and networking with heads of departments, managers, and board members. Therefore, I will need to dress the part. As most of you who've known me for any length of time know, I am a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl. I am not comfortable in clothes that have to be ironed and/or dry cleaned.

Secondly, due to the girth of my butt, buying clothes (of any sort) is typically depressing. I have been flirting with the 200# mark on the scale the last few months (primarily due to stress-related eating). So, I knew I was not going to like having to deal with buying a bigger size than I did a year ago.

Fortunately, when I feel the need for nicer clothes, I shop at Dress Barn. Dress Barn has affordable clothing and a flattering sizing philosophy. So, the size I thought I'd have to buy was actually too big. (Yes, it is an illusionary victory, but I'll take it.) Plus, I found two asian-inspired shirts that look nice but are just quirky enough to make me feel like an individual while wearing them.

Shirts are really not a huge issue for me. I struggle on many levels with pants. First off, I am somewhat pear shaped. So, sometimes I have to buy pants that are one size larger than the shirts that I buy. Secondly, I have issues with the color and style of most dress pants. I prefer dark colors since they go with more things, and they (somewhat) mask the size of my butt. Also, in my universe, all pants must have front pockets, preferably to the side, and deep enough to put your hands in. (Yes, I know this isn't a professional image. However, I like putting my hands my pockets at times. It relaxes me.)

So, my haul from yesterday's trip was four blouses and one pair of black dress pants. I already have a pair of dark gray dress pants with a muted turquoise pinstripe in them, along with several other dress shirts.

If this position works out, I suppose I'll be making friends with my neighborhood dry cleaner. Not only will my clothes clean up nicer, but they iron the wrinkles out of them. I'll probably take the time to research the dry cleaners in the area to identify one that has adopted the milder chemical process that is less harmful to the environment. Then I can do something good for the planet while I dress (albeit uncomfortably) for success.

Breakthrough in the writers' strike?

An unnamed source leaked that there has been a breakthrough in talks between the two sides in the Hollywood writers' strike. This is great news on so many levels. Maybe now the AP can hire professionals to write their pieces:

The two sides breached the gap Friday on the thorniest issues, those concerning compensation for projects distributed via the Internet, said the person, who requested anonymity because he were not authorized to speak publicly.

I really do hope that the end is near. The Writers Guild of America has backed off its insistence of unionization for animation and reality shows. Now perhaps the studios can give in some ground on the flat fee verses percentage renumeration issue for Internet and mobile media distribution. Wouldn't we all like to see peace between sides in time for the Oscars on February 24th?